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Marcella Wilson, PhD, President & Founder of Transition to Success

Marcella Wilson, Ph.D., has over 30 years of extensive experience in healthcare administration, not-for-profit management, behavioral health, criminal justice and public sector programming. Dr. Wilson, a University of Michigan alumnus holds a Master’s degree in Social Work and a Ph.D. in Health and Higher Education. Dr. Wilson is an Emmy Award winner for the “WRUFightn4” documentary promoting youth volunteerism. In her role as President and Founder of Transition to Success™, Wilson is leading a national social change movement with a standard of care to treat poverty as an environmentally based medical condition. “Diagnosis: Poverty”, Dr. Wilson’s newly published book, defines a scalable, sustainable, measurable, multi generational response to poverty.

Transition to Success™, recognized as a Clinton Global Initiative, brings uniform protocols and analytics across human services, healthcare, education, government and faith based programs.

Number of years in management: 40 years

Tell us about your path to management:
My management experience began in the restaurant business as I worked my way through college. Once in graduate school, I focused on social work administration. My work as a clinical social worker was short lived, moving quickly into management and administration. My education led me to a PhD in health administration with positions leading major managed health care plans. I left healthcare 12 years ago, getting back to my social work roots, I became CEO of a charity in Detroit, MI. It was there, the integration of health and human services that led to current work, now leading a national social change movement.

What leadership qualities do you find to be the most effective in reaching your organizational or career goals? 
I believe the willingness to fail is a key attribute to reaching career and personal goals.

How do you motivate your team members? 
I motivate others by understanding and engaging them in their dreams and supporting their growth. Our shared dreams and vision becomes a mutual supportive relationship.

Is there a leader or mentor who has inspired or assisted you along your professional journey?
During the course of my life and career I have been blessed with many mentors, each bringing special and unique gifts to my journey. It is the support and direction of these mentors that molded my beliefs and career.

How has networking impacted your career?
Networking is a crucial component of my success. Not only making connections to serve my interests but also by connecting my colleagues to others I know who can support/direct their goals. Benefiting from connections and resources offered through networking has changed the course of my career.

What are you reading and/or following now (book, blog, social media groups, etc)?
My reading is focused primarily on trade and research related articles and journals.

What advice do you have for those beginning their professional journey or who are already in leadership positions? 
You have 2 ears and 1 mouth, use them proportionately. Understand and embrace that every man and woman is your superior in that you can learn from them.

Do you have an initiative or project you would like to tell our readers about?
I am leading a national transformation movement Transition To Success dedicates to changing our nations understanding and response to poverty. Poverty is not a character flaw, it is a diagnosable, environmentally based condition caused directly by negative exposures to the social determinants. By addressing these environmental conditions, we have demonstrated poverty is a treatable condition.

What do you wish you had known before you started your career?
Discovering my life’s work would be the result of years of experience in different fields, working with diverse stakeholders and finding a purpose beyond a job or a salary.

Share a mistake or failure that provided the most growth in your career.
I have made many mistakes throughout my career and my personal life. Each was brought with it the opportunity to learn, with new insights and lessons learned. In retrospect, my failures in leading successful Board development in healthcare led me to new positions outside of healthcare.  That change has been transformational.

Where can people reach you for questions (LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter)?
Yes, I welcome the introductions. I can be reached at and (313) 580-2672. I am also on LinkedIn.

*The views expressed herein are those solely of the author and not necessarily endorsed by the Network for Social Work Management.

The views expressed herein are those solely of the author and not necessarily endorsed by the Network for Social Work Management.

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